Flying across the Tasman to New Zealand from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Auckland or Christchurch?
Choose your flights carefully and you could fly in a more comfortable seat, snooze on a fully flat bed, get some work done with full inflight power points and space to unfold your laptop, or relax with a wide selection of movies -- and a full meal, even in economy.
You can fly on a long-haul Airbus A380 or Boeing 777 for less than squeezing into a regular trans-Tasman Boeing 737 or Airbus A320, which might not even have business class seats. So it's a better flight for you, and better value for your travel budget.
And with useful early morning and evening departures in some cases, they fit the business traveller's schedule well.
Four airlines use larger, more comfortable long-haul planes across the Tasman: South American airlines Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN stop in Auckland on their way to Sydney, Qantas' daily Sydney-Auckland-Los Angeles flight accepts trans-Tasman passengers, and Emirates extends four of its Australia flights to NZ.
Most of these flights are between Sydney and Auckland, with Emirates alone offering Sydney-Christchurch, Melbourne-Auckland and Brisbane-Auckland.
So what's the catch? Well, since these flights are add-ons to other international flights, they're more likely to be late. The South American flights, in particular, are somewhat infamous for delays. Only some of them are useful to accumulate frequent flyer points and miles. And if you're at the back of the plane, you're more likely to see immigration and customs delays.
But overall, they're a great way to fly across the Tasman.
(Note that we haven't looked at the occasional flights on larger planes from Auckland on Air New Zealand, since schedules are irregular, but you may well find a Boeing 747, 777 or 767 on Auckland-Sydney routes.)
The airlines, lounges and frequent flyer point options
Some of these trans-Tasman flights are better than others from the point of view of topping up your frequent flyer point balance -- and for finding your way into their lounges if you're one of their more frequent flyers.
Qantas: in addition to its NZ-based Jetconnect flights to Auckland, Qantas runs an Airbus A330 most days, which continues on to Los Angeles from Auckland. It's a regular Qantas flight, and will get you regular Qantas frequent flyer points. Qantas has lounges in both Auckland and Sydney.
Aerolineas Argentinas: without a current airline alliance, flying AR won't accrue you miles. And while the airline plans to join SkyTeam in 2012, that alliance doesn't have an Australian partner airline. So Aerolineas Argentinas' flight isn't one to pick for the miles. The airline uses Qantas' lounges in Sydney and Air New Zealand's in Auckland.
Emirates: since the Dubai-based airline has an extensive network of connections to Europe, Asia and Africa from Australia, its own Skywards frequent flyer program is a valuable deal. The airline doesn't have a local Australian partner airline, though, so Skywards is the best option for accruing Emirates miles. Emirates has its own lounges in Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and uses the Manaia Lounge in Christchurch.
LAN: Chile's national airline is a oneworld member and Qantas codeshare partner. So you'll accrue Qantas Frequent Flyer points on LAN flights, although without the bonuses you'd get on Qantas for holding a high-tier frequent flyer card. LAN uses the Qantas lounges in Auckland and Sydney.
The flights -- and what you'll find on board
Here's the full list of flights, the on-board offerings and guideline times for late spring departures in 2011. (Times may change around the year, especially with daylight savings in Australia, New Zealand and around the world.)
Qantas QF141 leaves Sydney at 0655, getting you into Auckland at 1205. Return QF114 leaves Auckland at 1245, arriving back at Sydney at 1420. (The flight is sometimes swapped for a Boeing 737 at weekends, however.) Business class sees Qantas' first-generation angled lie-flat Skybed seats, with economy in a 2-4-2 configuration at the back of the bus.
Emirates' EK412 leaves Sydney at 0845 and arrives in Auckland at 1400. EK413 returns at 1840, getting you back to Sydney for 2005. Emirates has the best seats of the bunch: its Airbus A380 has first class suites, fully flat beds and a bar in business class, plus a full planeload of economy seats in a 3-4-3 layout downstairs. Flights run daily -- and don't miss our business class review.
LAN flight LA800 leaves at 0925 and arrives into Auckland at 1440. (We've reviewed the flight, too.) Return LA801 is a good "crack of dawn" flight option from Auckland, leaving at 0630 and arriving in Sydney at 0810. LAN runs an Airbus A340 with angled lie-flat seats in business class and a 2-4-2 configuration in economy, six days a week -- Wednesday doesn't see a flight.
Aerolineas Argentinas AR1183 departs Sydney at 1200 and gets into Auckland at 1715. Return flight AR1182 leaves Auckland at 0840, getting into Sydney at 1020. Again, it's an A340, but with recliners in business and 2-4-2 in economy. Those recliners are a poor option for the long flight to South America, but for a few hours across the Tasman they're not bad. Flights run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
Melbourne-Auckland, Brisbane-Auckland, Sydney-Christchurch
These three daily Emirates return flights are all on stretched Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, with first class suites at the pointy end, then angled lie-flat business class seats, with a high-density 3-4-3 economy class down the back. (Read our Auckland-Melbourne business class review.) All classes have Emirates' top-notch entertainment system.
Sydney-Christchurch flight EK418 departs at 1015, arriving at the South Island's main airport at 1520. Return flight EK419 leaves at 1655, getting you back into Sydney at 1815.
Melbourne-Auckland passengers get flight EK406, leaving Tullamarine at 0810 and arriving in Auckland at 1345. A convenient evening departure at 1850 brings return flight EK407 back to Melbourne for 2050.
Brisbane-Auckland sees flight EK434 departing at 0825, getting into Auckland for 1435. Return flight EK435 leaves Auckland at 1815 and gets into Brisbane at 1900.